“Maybe you’re being too existential about this,” Etta said, wringing her hands over the table in a way that made Lennon’s skin crawl. “You belong here, Len, with us.”
“Us?” Len repeated, raising an eyebrow. “Who is this ‘us’?” She reached into her purse for her wallet, as the two sat, plates pushed toward a meeting in the middle. They’d requested the check a few moments ago. Lennon felt her heart beat audibly and in her mind, the urge to bolt out of Etta’s presence made itself loud and clear. Lennon repressed it. She had amazing self-control that way. If only adults could storm out of situations they didn’t like without seeming impolite…
“Me…” Etta said. “The gang, of course, silly.”
“I mean, really. You’re not thinking of moving to Europe the way you wanted to in high school, are you? Because you haven’t done that, after all.”
“Thanks for reminding me of the things I haven’t done yet,” Lennon said shortly. Oh, thank goodness, the check. Lennon grabbed for it, reading off the total amount, adding in the tip.
“Honestly, Lennon. What would make you happy?” Etta asked. She paused for a moment and chirped out, “You should get a boyfriend.”
“Thanks for the suggestion,” Len answered in a lethally calm tone. It would’ve signaled that Lennon’s little seen, but often profoundly felt temper was rising. Mady and Stacey would’ve recognized it, not because Len had ever directed it at them, but because they’d seen it directed toward other people. Real fucking original there, Ett.
“Is there anything I can do?” Etta continued.
“It’s thirty-four dollars.”
“Yeah,” Len replied, checking the numbers on her cell phone. She took out the corresponding currency and left it on the top of the check. “I might go visit Stace for a little bit.”
“Oh, in Boston?”
“No. In Missouri.”
“Missouri?” Etta blinked, a blank expression crossing her face. Her outstretched hand, ham fisted around a wad of money, stilled. Len stifled a laugh. New Yorkers were really very predictable. There was a famous New Yorker map of Manhattan from Ninth Avenue on through to the other side of the world. Only New York had buildings and landmarks; every other place was two-dimensional. Some New Yorkers took pride in that New York-centric view of life, never wanting to leave, never understanding why anyone would ever want to leave.
It really was a self-centered kind of place.
“Yup,” Lennon replied. “You know, St. Louis. Kansas City. Jesse James.”
“What’s she doing there?” Etta asked baldly.
“Working for that Equity card,” Len replied, pushing back her chair. “I have to go.”